Watch: This gay Iraqi couple’s incredible love story will move you to tears
Ellen DeGeneres has interviewed a gay Iraqi couple who managed to escape persecution and overcome the odds to find a new life together.
Iraqi-born couple Nayyef Hrebid and Btoo Allami were both serving with the military in Iraq when they first met and fell in love, in the midst of a conflict that tore apart parts their country.
The documentary ‘Out of Iraq: The Dangerous Story of Two Gay Soldiers’ captured the pair’s struggle to escape – both eventually seeking asylum in the US, where they both now live.
The pair now live in Seattle, and work to help LGBT youth from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East who are fleeing persecution.
Speaking on Ellen, they explained: “It’s too difficult, being gay in Iraq. Family and friends, everyone, they say being gay is sick. They find out about you and you either get tortured or killed. As our relationship grew, we felt we could not stay.”
The pair’s journey has been far from easy, however.
Mr Hrebid, who worked as a translator with a group of Marines, was able to submit an asylum plea and was accepted for resettlement – but was unable to bring his boyfriend with him.
The pair spent more than four years apart as he struggled against the system, before Mr Allami was finally able to join him in the US.
They recently got married, enjoying the full protections afforded to them under American law that seem entirely alien to their family in Iraq.
Mr Hrebid explained: “Seattle’s so beautiful. Everyone there is very friendly, and we could be who we are without anyone bothering us, without hiding.”
Of the pair’s work, he explained: “The LGBT youth who come from the Middle East, we help them with a place to stay for the first time, we explain about the culture.
“Of course, they have good reasons to leave their homes, but it’s not easy for them. It wasn’t easy when I came here for the first time, with only $50 in my pocket. People helped us, so now it’s my time to pay them back.”
The pair were moved to tears as Ellen surprised them with a cheque for $25,000 towards their work, and to help them buy their first home.
Of course, their interview comes at a difficult time for prospective refugees and asylum seekers in the US.
President Trump is shortly expected to sign an executive order to suspend the US Refugee Admissions Program, creating further obstacles for people who have fled persecution and ending the resettlement of refugees.
He is also expected to sign an order banning people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen travelling to the US.
LGBT rights groups say the new orders will be a direct blow to the thousands of LGBT people who have been displaced in Iraq and Syria, as the terrorist group known as ISIS continues to actively target and execute gay men.